Tuesday Rockpile: PECOTA Predicts Rough 2013 for Rockies

PECOTA is not a fan of Dexter Fowler in 2013, but most of that has to do with his defense. - Justin Edmonds

It does not get much dorkier than looking at something called the "Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm," especially when it was created by Nate Silver. Yet that is something we always do before spring action gets started.

Baseball Prospectus published the first aspects of their 2013 PECOTA forecasts yesterday. The system originally created by Nate Silver a decade ago brings some good news - it expects the Rockies to improve by eight games in 2013 to a 72-90 record. That link prior requires no subscription and displays projected records for all 30 teams, plus a few team stats for good measure.

If you have a Baseball Prospectus subscription, you can look at pretty charts comparing the WARP, FRAA and TAv (BPro's version of Fangraphs' WAR, UZR and wOBA) by position for each team in the league. You can also look at the specific projections for individual Rockies' players.

Last month, I highlighted the ZiPS projections for the Rockies. One very clear difference between ZiPS and PECOTA is that PECOTA adjusts for expected playing time, whereas ZiPS projects each player as if they were given a reasonable chance to maximize their playing time. While playing time can change dramatically, estimating playing time does put projections on a scale to achieve season statistics as a roster. As many goodies from PECOTA are behind a pay wall, I cannot share them all here, but a few observations:

  • Only the Marlins are projected to have a worse record than the Rockies in the National League.
  • Colorado is projected to allow 856 runs. The next worst pitching staff in the NL is the Marlins, who allow 105 fewer runs in the PECOTA calculation.
  • While that is bad, the Twins pitching situation is even worse. While Colorado pitches at a much more difficult park than Target Field, PECOTA thinks the Rockies will allow eight fewer runs than the Twins.
  • The Rockies' offense, by park-adjusted TAv, is rated as third-worst in the NL, better only than the Marlins and Cubs. In 2012, the Rockies' TAv was better than the Cubs, Marlins, Astros and Reds (who had been missing Votto). This seems overly pessimistic on the Rockies, but real holes at first base and third base mean the offense is probably average at best, with park adjustments taken into account.
  • PECOTA does not like Dexter Fowler, projecting him out at just a 1.3 WARP, which is actually what he earned in 2012. His defense rates out extremely poorly in every system, but even his projected TAv is lower than Adam Eaton. Hmm...
  • Carlos Gonzalez does not have a particularly strong projection either, with defense playing a part.
To get a better idea how Colorado stacks up:

Rockies 2013 PECOTA WARP NL West Rank NL Rank
C 2.0 4th 8th
1B 1.6 4th 13th
2B 2.1 t-4th t-9th
3B 0.8 5th 15th
SS 5.6 1st 1st
LF 2.5 t-3rd t-7th
CF 1.6 5th 14th
RF 1.6 3rd t-14th
PH 0.4 5th t-13th

Lonely Tulo.

Of course, we play the games for a reason. No matter how hard we try, we are not very good at telling the future. Some note this in particular with the Rockies:

A lot went bad for Colorado in 2012, and much of that is captured in the projections still. The Coors monster of 2012, players playing through injury or missing significant time through injury, guys getting hurt from vomiting, falling off a bike or drinking Red Bull....

The Rockies are not the Astros or Marlins. There is talent on that roster that has performed at high levels at the MLB level. If the important players stay healthy, the Rockies may surpass 72 wins by early September.

The biggest factor in being the surprise team in 2013 will be the rotation. Perhaps it isn't a surprise then that Monday brought features on five pitchers for 2013:

Jhoulys Chacin aims for his best season as a Rockies pitcher - The Denver Post - After struggling while throwing thrrough nerve damage in his pectoral muscle, Chacin returned and pitched very effectively, if not dominantly, down the stretch in 2012. A strong 2010-11 level Chacin would be a massive boost to the Rockies.

Jorge De La Rosa 'finally feels like a pitcher again' - I am not particularly surprised that de la Rosa struggled mentally with returning from Tommy John surgery. An essential non-factor in 2012, de la Rosa could very easily be a big part of the Rockies

New year, new chapter in Nicasio comeback story | Rockies.com: News - Nicasio has been on a 3 fWAR pace in both of his seasons before suffering a freak injury. He's a little overweight it seems, but his knee is healthy. Nicasio would be a big improvement over, well, anyone in 2012.

Those three above are the big keys, as Troy Renck wrote yesterday.

Pomeranz doesn't plan to dwell on struggles | Rockies.com: News - Pomeranz is still just 24 and actually had an okay season in 2012. Hopefully he learned something

Outman looking to put 2012 season behind him | Rockies.com: News - No pitcher had a weirder year than Outman. He could be a surprise contributor in the rotation, a key piggyback reliever, or even a LOOGy.

Links

Dexter Fowler agrees to a two-year contract with Rockies for $11.6 million - The Denver Post It is important to know that this deal changes little. Fowler was under Rockies control through 2015 regardless, but this provides cost certainty to both parties for two years. It may provide cost certainty to a buyer on the trade market, and it could drive up his trade value significantly if he has a monster 2013. But by and large, it mostly means the Rockies will avoid an arbitration hearing and little else.

Colorado Rockies unveil new spring training, batting-practice caps - The mountain logo is back officially!

Catcher in the Public Eye - A Review of Mike Piazza's book, by Tim Marchman. Marchman also highlighted his favorite story from the book later on twitter, a story about Rickey Henderson. My neighbor in high school coached Henderson in a high school All-Star game, and I got to hear many stories about him as a youngster while I was throwing hay bales. A very interesting player. I'm sure Piazza is too...

Braves make brave choice for boring b.p. cap - Baseball Nation - Vocal outrage apparently changed the concept, and the screaming Indian logo is no more.

Lastly, we don't really have a gallery of photos from the beginning of Spring Training yet, but Jenny Cavnar did snap this photo with her smartphone at Senor Fats yesterday.

OFF TOPIC

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